By JOHN VRANCIC
For the Daily News
NEWBERRY - The high school wrestling season is still very much alive this week in Dickinson County as 17 area athletes placed among the top four in their respective weight classes in Saturday's Division 4 individual district.
Norway will send 10 and Iron Mountain is taking seven to Saturday's regionals at Rogers City.
The Knights, however, must first focus on Wednesday's team regional at Manistique, where they'll face Rogers City in an opening-round match at 5 p.m. (CST).
Westwood meets Rudyard in the opposite bracket, with the title match set for 6:30.
Norway senior Taylor Bonetti became the area's first champion, pinning St. Ignace junior James Cryderman five minutes, 35 seconds into the 171-pound final.
"He's a good wrestler," said Bonetti. "I just had to count on him making a mistake."
Bonetti trailed 4-0 midway through the match, but a reversal chopped his deficit in half with 41 seconds left in the second stanza and an escape pulled him with 4-3 at the end of the period.
Cryderman made it 6-3 with a takedown 45 seconds into the third period.
Fifteen seconds later, the Norway coaches provided Bonetti with a one-minute warning and the senior grappler climbed within 6-5 on a reversal just five ticks later, putting him in position to go after the pin.
"The coaches gave me a heads-up, which helped a lot," said Bonetti. "I just had to kick it into a higher gear.
An escape at the end of any period also helps. It gives you more confidence going into the next period. And taking first here definitely helps. It gives me a better seeding for regionals."
Norway coach Nick Burklund was also pleased with the results of that match.
"Taylor works very hard," he said. "This is a testament to the effort he gives. There's no quit in him.
"This can be a dangerous meet for teams that have already qualified for regionals. This is a chance for redemption for kids on teams that have been eliminated in districts. This gives them a chance to knock off wrestlers who have beaten them before."
Norway sophomore Zac Decremer was crowned champion at 103 pounds, pinning Rogers City sophomore Tom Vogelheim in 83 seconds.
"I was pretty confident," said Decremer, now 38-0 this season. "I just wrestled my match. I tried to work with the half-Nelson. I had him stuck and he ended up rolling out. Then, I did the half-Nelson to set up the pin.
"This gives me a better chance of making it to state, although there will be some tough wrestlers down there next weekend."
Iron Mountain junior Jared Gauthier (125) continued his winning ways, pinning Norway senior Don Houle in 3:26.
"It's a real pleasure wrestling with Don," said Gauthier, also 38-0. "I don't get to see many wrestlers with his style and body strength. He could be a state qualifier. The biggest challenge is telling myself that I've done this before, and I can do it again. You've got to have faith in yourself."
Gauthier, who won at 135 pounds in the Mid-Peninsula Conference meet Feb. 1 at Westwood, said he was thankful for having a second chance after the Mountaineers fell to Norway in a district final last Wednesday.
"Individually, we know we can hang with the Norway kids," he said. "We just don't have the bodies to hang with them in a team tournament.
"I decided to go up a couple weight classes in the M-PCs and I think I benefitted from that. I'm just going to go in (to regionals) knowing I can do the same things I do in practice."
A short time later, junior teammate Alex Edwards (130) used a third-period reversal and takedown to preserve a 10-5 victory over Rogers City junior Cameron Urban.
"I felt good to get that reversal right away in the third period (for an 8-4 lead)," said Edwards, who was icing down his knee moments after the match. "That gave me more breathing room. I tweaked the knee a little in the semfinals (in a 4-0 victory over St. Ignace junior Cameron Collier). It hurts a lot more now. But I kept thinking I've got to make it to state. My brother (Chuck) is in the Air Force and I've got to do it for him."
Iron Mountain junior Corbin Henkel (135) also reached the finals, where he dropped a 4-2 decision to Ishpeming junior Johnathan Willey.
Junior teammate Jacob Weslin then bowed 7-4 to Ishpeming senior Jordan Tousingnant in the 145 title bout and senior James Christiansen (189) was pinned in 2:44 on Onaway senior Casey Watson.
"We had a good day," said Iron Mountain coach Brandon Rutter. "I'm happy with our overall performance. We're still heading in the right direction. We took eight up here and seven are going to regionals."
Also placing for the Mountaineers were Brayden Fitzpatrick (215) in third and Aaron Bolo (140) in fourth.
Norway had an additional runner-up in junior Cole Gonzalez (140), who was pinned in 4:52 by Rogers City junior Jacob Sobeck in the title bout.
Those placing third for Norway were Dylan Hoffart (112), Tim Huddleston (119), Tanner Gonzalez (140) and Cody Spade (145).
Norway's fourth-place finishers include Zavier Gonzalez (152) and Kasey Siegel (285).
In Manistee, Kingsford's Zac Jones (103 pounds) advanced to Saturday's individual regional at Kingsley.
Jones got through three wrestlers before falling to William Dominek of Roscommon in the final.
"He wrestled well," Flivvers coach Torrey Adams said. "He came in as No. 1 seed based on record this year. In his final, he just coulnd't find a way to score more points than the other guy."